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Persons with intellectual disability in prison

Scott Spreat (The Research Institute at Woods Services, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2050-8824

Article publication date: 9 July 2020

Issue publication date: 5 November 2020




The purpose of this paper is to examine the prevalence with which individuals with intellectual disability are housed in jails and prisons.


This was a literature review of individuals with intellectual disability who are in prison.


Persons with intellectual disability are imprisoned approximately seven times more frequently than would be expected by their prevalence in the general population.

Research limitations/implications

Factors likely to contribute to this overrepresentation are reviewed, including need for supports and acquiescence of people with intellectual disability.

Practical implications

People who have intellectual disability do not receive needed supports and services in prison.

Social implications

Supports are needed to end this overreliance on prisons to support people who have intellectual disability.


The paper highlights the magnitude by which imprisonment exceeds the level that would be expected from population prevalence alone. It highlights the problems associated with insufficient funding and supports.



Spreat, S. (2020), "Persons with intellectual disability in prison", Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 233-237.



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